Remember the first time your kids came with you to an ATM? Can you see their eyes get wide as saucers as you slid the card in; hit a few buttons and wonders of wonders, money came out! It was magic. All you had to do was go to the right place, do the right things and the windows of heaven opened with manna from above. Ok, so it wasn’t the windows of heaven, it was the little ATM door and it wasn’t manna either but bills that seemed to fly out. I remember our son saying, “Gee Dad, all we have to do is go to the ATM and we’ll be rich. Money just comes out of nowhere. Let’s go get a basket full.”
This very same idea floods many conversations and the media. I hear it all the time, many people talk about an invisible force that will guide and empower their lives for their good, success and pleasure. They believe that this force can be encouraged and manipulated if we just have good, positive thoughts. Let me tell you about three recent conversations;
First; I was at a company-wide meeting and the president got up to speak. The president reviewed our long slump in new sales, but there was genuine optimism that we were turning the corner. Our new products were coming on-line and several companies demonstrated serious interest. Everyone was hopeful that we would land at least one of them. Towards the end of his speech, the president thanked everyone for their efforts in support of the new sales. His closing line was that these new sales would happen if they were meant to be.
Second; the other week I stopped in our local farmers market. Mixed in with the tomatoes, lettuce, fruits and vegetables was a small stall selling crystals. Curiosity got the best of me so I stopped in and had a great conversation with Bobbi. She explained how the crystals let her connect with the source, who would give her energy to live a better life. (I’m sure the full conversation will be covered in an upcoming blog.)
Third; this week I spoke with a business colleague and the topic of October being breast cancer awareness month came up. I shared how Mary Ann had been treated for breast cancer about 10 years ago and was still doing really well. Out of nowhere, this business colleague shared her encounter with breast cancer about 4 years ago; going through lumpectomy surgery, chemo and radiation therapy. Just this week she got the very unsettling news that the cancer was back in a more aggressive form. She’s just returned from seeing a number of specialist who all concur that a radical mastectomy is necessary this time followed by more chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. After healing from this most recent procedure she will also undergo breast reconstruction surgery.
It’s at times like this that I have learned from painful experience that there is really nothing that I can say. I want to be an encouragement and supportive, but it’s wrong to try and be too chipper. I try to show my respect by being quiet and humble, only asking questions.
She seemed to want to talk more about her immediate future, with surgery scheduled within two weeks. All of a sudden she moved the conversation from the details and schedule and crossed over into a spiritual context. She expressed hope in both the surgery and her positive thoughts would heal her cancer. When I asked permission to pray for her, she was genuinely thankful, saying that she believed in prayer, positive thoughts and things like that.
All three true encounters have a strong common theme; that there is an impersonal, random power available to help us with life. This faceless force is not a person but a power that we can manipulate, and the way we tap into this power is through positive thoughts. It sort of reminds me of fishing; you put the right bait on the hook and the fish come. If you put out the right positive thoughts, this power will come and make everything all right.
Let me take you to another conversation I had this week. Visiting with a friend here in central Florida, his reoccurring cancer diagnosis is that it will probably kill him; two years without treatment, five with. Like my businesses colleague, we talked about surgeries, treatments, chemo, and radiation therapies. Yes there was uncertainty and some fear, but the entire conversation was very different. Instead of looking towards an empty eternity, we spoke about our heavenly Father who loves, cares and heals. In place of an anonymous and uncontrollable power we talked about how Jesus came as a real person, experiencing trial, pain and temptation just like we have .
As we held hands and prayed, we committed ourselves to God our Father through Jesus. We prayed to God who hears, loves, answers and saves. There was great hope in knowing and talking with God personally. As our prayer ended, we realized that while our time in this life is limited, there is a great eternity ahead with God, worshiping and enjoying him forever.
As I think back on these two very different views; one is impersonal while the other is deeply personal. One is a power, the other is a person. One is a faceless source while the other is a faithful savior.
Jesus was neither unfeeling nor impersonal. He felt deeply for the poor, injured, outcast and sick. He made friends and sat down with people whose reputations were tarnished. He went where no self-respecting, self-righteous church member of his day would go; eating with people thought to contaminate.
Everyone will put their trust in something or someone. We are all people of faith; the only question is where we put it. Jesus claims to be our creator, the ultimate truth and ultimate God. He is either what and who he said, or not – it’s that clear a choice. His desire is for us to follow him. No matter where you are along life’s journey, now is the time to start following Jesus.
He waits with open arms, not a faceless force. Where would you rather run to? Which way would you rather take a leap of faith?
Blessings – Chet
Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.